Week Three: Wyoming June 30 - July 6
Click here to read Matt's newsletter from this week!
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I'll be cycling between two of America's most famous landmarks--- Grand Teton Mountains and Devil's Tower. Devil's Tower, made famous by the movie "Close Encounters" is a geological wonder that reflects the colors of sunset and moonlight.
Matt's newsletter from this week:
WEEK OF JUNE 29
Hello again from Devil's Tower, Wyoming! As many of you know, this summer I am riding my bicycle 4,200 miles across America in honor and memory of my father. He passed away last April about 2 months before he was to set off on his own transcontinental journey. This summer I'll be completing his dream for him, on his bicycle, while raising money for a scholarship in his honor.
This week I cycled from Jackson Hole, WY to Devil's Tower, WY. I left the majestic beauty of the Grand Tetons, rolled through the arid desert plains of Wyoming, climbed over the Big Horn Mountains, got some free twinkies, saw the mythic jackelopes, and rolled into Devil's Tower: the home of Close Encounters! Check below for photos and descriptions (and don't forget to click on the photos to see larger images)
Next week, we're heading into South Dakota to visit Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument and the Badlands. South Dakota is supposed to be a unique cycling experience: two riders heading in opposite directions can allegedly both have headwinds! It should be an interesting week...
THIS WEEK'S FUN FACTS
Miles ridden this week: 518
Miles ridden to date: 1,644
Jackelope Sightings: 2
Highest Speed: 53.5 MPH (in a 50 MPH zone!)
Estimated Calories Burned on Friday: 7,500 (According to article in May 1989 issue of Bicycling Magazine)
July 1st: Twinkies for ALL!
Jackson Hole, WY to Dubios, WY
103 miles with 6000 ft of climbing
It was tough to leave Jackson Hole, WY. Yes, it's somewhat of a tourist trap, but it's a really cool little town, with great coffee shops, nice people and amazing views of the mountains. Before leaving, we went back to DOG for our morning mocha and to say goodbye to Becky, our resident mocha goddess. Sure enough, she gave us our drinks for free, it was her donation to the ride. Thanks Becky!
We headed over to a restaurant called Dornan's for our breakfast beneath the Grand Tetons. The breakfast was pretty good, and the views were amazing. We were sitting at the base of Grand, looking up 7,500 feet to the summit. We had a long day ahead of us, including a climb over the 9,658 foot Togwotee Pass, so we stuck around at breakfast for a while, a very long while.
Eventually, we made our way towards the pass, but right before the climb started, we stopped at a gas station to refuel. The Hostess delivery guy was making his usual rounds, so I asked him if he had any free stuff for me, as a donation towards the ride, and sure enough, he supplied our group with all the free Twinkies and donuts we could eat. We got a great picture with him to the right. Thanks Twinkie dude, you got us up and over the pass!
The climb was a teaser; it rolled and rolled for what seemed like forever. We would crest a hill and turn a corner, only to find more thousands of vertical feet for us to climb. Eventually (and I mean a long eventually), we reached the summit, saw some remnant snow, and rolled down towards Dubious at 52.5 MPH (my fastest of the trip). Dubois is home to a life size stuffed Jackelope (a prehistoric animal that still roams the western states, it's a cross between a bunny rabbit and an antelope, basically a rabbit with horns). You can see my picture with Jack the jackelope to the right.
July 2nd: 20 MPH average speed all day!!!
Dubois, WY to Riverton, WY
81 miles with 1,115 feet of climbing
Today was a fast day, and I mean a really fast day. We had mother nature on our side with a fierce tailwind for the first three quarters of the day. We made it to lunch by 10:00 after averaging 21.5 MPH in the morning. It was hot today and we rolled through the red rocks of the Wyoming desert. Everyone always compares these views to Mars, so in an effort to expand the boundaries of 21 century journalism, I would say the red rocks of Wyoming reminded me of the Flinstones, finstonesque if you will.
After lunch, the winds started to turn against me (tailwinds cannot last forever), but I was still averaging over 20 MPH and I decided that I was going to finish over 20 for the first time ever. I broke away from the peleton to battle the winds and the heat by myself in a silly attempt to set a personal record. As I've said before, headwinds are relentless, no matter how hard you work and how good looking you are, they never stop (not that these two things apply to me), but persistence breaks down resistance (nice jingle, huh?) and I fought my way to Riverton. When I checked my average speed, it was 19.9 MPH. Now some may say I didn't reach my goal, but I never give up. It's all about rounding...
July 3rd: A Dad Day
Riverton, WY to Worland WY
94 miles and 1,000 feet of climbing
I've been debating about what to write about in this public place, about what I'm doing, about how I'm feeling along the way, about my physical battles with cycling and my emotional battles with the loss of my father. I've decided that you're going to get a little bit of everything; I think it's the best way for you to see this experience as it really is, as opposed to all dressed up with a pink ribbon.
Today was really tough for me. It was not a physically demanding day at all; in fact it was mostly flat with beautiful scenery. But this morning I had what I've come to call a Dad moment. I was putting sunscreen on my arms, like I have done each of the past 20 some odd days, when I had a striking moment that stopped me cold. As you know, my dad was an avid cyclist who spent most summers outside riding through Western New York. When you put in that many miles in the summer, you get a pretty unique tan: your arms become golden brown, but your hands stay white, except for the little dot for the hole in the cycling gloves. My father always had a cyclist's tan, I never had one. Until now.
The past 15 months have been a rollercoaster of experiences; I've learned that I need to take time away to process, so this morning I rode alone through the Wyoming desert. It was a much needed time to reflect and think. It would be nice to say that I had some type of breakthrough, but I've also learned that it just doesn't work that way. It's a long process.
Although I was going through a challenging day, the scenery today was spectacular. We rolled through the Wind River Canyon, where the water has eroded away billions of years of rock formations. It was hot today though, reaching into the high 90's with little or no shade along the way, but Theresa, Laura and I had a fun water fight in the afternoon to cool ourselves off. Theresa was suitably impressed with the volume of water I could hold in my mouth and spit at one time, it's nice to be recognized for one's strengths.
July 4th: The Ultimate Challenge
Worland, WY to Buffalo, WY
94 miles with 8,500 feet of climbing
Happy Fourth of July, and welcome to the most physically challenging day of the tour according to our hosts, CycleAmerica. Today we rode 94 miles, with 72 miles of climbing. Yes, I am serious. Today was actually beyond my ability of comprehension, I could not imagine how one stretch of road could have this much cumulative climbing. I discovered that it can and it does. Including the Powder River Pass (36 miles of climbing alone), today was a killer. BUT, we made it. It's downhill to Boston (well, not really, but let me believe it for at least tonight please).
We left super early this morning, just after 6:30 AM, to escape the afternoon heat. Around 8:00 we reached the small town of Ten Sleep, which was having its 4th of July parade at 10:00. There goes our good idea of leaving early to beat the heat, we're touring remember! So we had some mochas and enjoyed small town America. I got a nice picture with the rodeo clown; check it out to the right.
We started to climb right out of Ten Sleep, 36 miles of up. It was never really steep, hovering around 6-7% grade all day, but it was relentless. Climbing for 4 hours straight is more a test of will than a test of strength, you just have to accept that your legs will burn and you will be hot and uncomfortable for a very long time. You have no choice, you just have to push on.
Three and a half hours, 10 water bottles, and 6 granola bars later, Tony, Steve and I reached the summit at 9,666 feet. There is something uniquely gratifying about reaching the summit after a climb like this; knowing that it was your hard work, persistence and butt that got you up there. Just as we were taking our picture (to the right) a couple climbed out of their campervan and loudly complained how tired they were after riding up the hill for 30 minutes. They have no idea.
After a zooming downhill (53.5 MPH!), we rolled through some more climbs and finally descended into Buffalo Wyoming to have dinner at the Occidental Hotel, where Butch Cassidy stayed many years ago. Just to complete the day appropriately, there was a 1 block wall in front of our campsite, probably 16% grade for 200 feet. We raced up to finish the day in style.
July 5th: The I-90 Experience
Buffalo, WY to Gillette, WY
74 Miles with 7,000 feet of climbing
There are not too many cyclists that can claim they have ridden on Interstate 90: legally, at least. Yes, this is the same I-90 that rolls through NY as the Thruway and ends as the Mass Pike a few miles from my home in Boston. But, when there are no other east-west roads, we cyclists get to join the big boys and play on the interstate.
It was actually the best road surface we've had so far: huge clean shoulders, with a rumble strip for protection, and double lanes in both directions. It was hot though, and with no trees for shade, it made for a pretty long day. Funny note, when we wanted to get off for anything, we always had to climb a hill to get back on - we didn't stop much. Also, exits often led directly onto dirt roads instead of into towns like back east - we are definitely in Wyoming.
This morning, Steve and I met a nice gentleman named Richard at our mocha stop. He was retired from driving a cement truck the 70 miles between Buffalo and Gillette. Richard logged 3 million miles during his career, passing the same pebbles along the same 70 mile stretch of highway, 5 times a day, 5 days a week for 28 years. He was a kind man, who chatted with us for almost an hour. I gave him my web address, Richard, if you get this, it was great meeting with you!
July 6th: The Devil's Headwinds
Gillette, WY to Devil's Tower, WY
72 miles and 2,000 feet of climbing
Okay, forget everything I've said about battling headwinds so far. I'm getting the feeling that I have no idea what I'm talking about when it comes to cycling, never listen to my complaining again. Today we had no joke headwinds. I'm talking wind roaring in your ears all day, wind so fierce it blew the spit right out of my mouth, I know that's gross, but its true. We had crazy headwinds.
About 20 miles into the day, we made a right turn and had cross winds for about 5 miles. About the same time, a coal train was setting out from Gillette to deliver its cargo off to the east. As I was pedaling along at 19 MPH, it crept up behind me and finally passed me going around 30. And the conductor thought he was going to get away with that. Bob from San Diego yelled for me to go get him, so I stood up and sprinted off after the train. After reaching 33 MPH, I caught the train and the conductor gave me a double horn blast. I raced him to an overpass, where I officially won (not really a fair fight, since he was carrying 100+ coal cars, he couldn't accelerate too quickly, but I digress) and he saluted me out the window. Tehehe, that was fun.
We slogged against the headwinds the rest of the day. I found myself continually looking right to check on the status of my new best friends: the plants along the side of the road. When your entire day depends on the direction of the wind, the plants can tell you everything. When they're swaying against you, you're bumming, when they stand straight, you're happy, and when they bend in your direction, you just about jump out of your seat and cry with happiness. It's the small things out here.
We finally rolled into Devils' Tower for our rest day; a much needed day off. After setting up the tents and taking a quick nap, we had a huge margarita party where Grant, the resident margarita guru (we have a lot of resident gurus), made top shelf margaritas for all. We stayed up late celebrating our week and looking forward to sleeping in.
So my third week has come to an end. What a whirlwind of a week. It was tough, but rewarding. I am tired and needing this day off, but I am excited to continue and am looking forward to seeing South Dakota.
As always, I have really appreciated all the support I continue to receive from everyone out there on the RideAcross Travelogue. We have almost 400 people joining us on the list and it continues to grow. Please feel free to send this email to all your friends and encourage them to register at www.rideacross.com.
I would also like to express my sincerest thanks for those that have donated in support of my ride. If you have not yet made a donation and would like to, please visit www.rideacross.com and click on donations.
Say Goodbye to the Tetons
Twinkies to the Rescue!
Red Rocks of Wyoming
Attack of the Jackelopes!
Alone on Dad day
Wind River Canyon tunnels
The Rodeo Clown
Conquering the Big Horns of Wyoming
Mochas on the 4th of July
Richard, the 3 million mile man
We taking this to Boston?
Small town America
One more shot of the Tetons, I love 'em
Hey look, they have 'em out here too!
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